Open Source

The five fastest-booting Linux distributions

You may not have to reboot Linux very often. But when you do, these peppy distributions will have you up and running in a matter of seconds.

Reboots tend to be rare with Linux. Usually, they're due to a kernel update or an environmental issue. But regardless of the reason, it's crucial it come back to life quickly. One issue surrounding Linux of late is boot time. Some distributions have made it a key feature to attract users. Some have even succeeded in reaching that magic 10-second number. But which distributions boot fastest? Let's take a look.

NOTE: Console logins do not count.

1: Puppy Linux

Puppy Linux is not the fastest-booting distribution in this crowd, but it's one of the fastest. And what's unique about this distribution is that it will boot faster than your standard OS, even when it's booting from the Live CD. Of course, some may claim, "It's not a full-blown OS". But it is. Although many view Puppy more as a rescue distribution, it's a full-blown distribution that offers nearly every tool you need to do what you need to do.

  • Average boot time: 26 seconds.

2: Linpus Lite Desktop Edition

Linpus Lite Desktop Edition is an alternative desktop OS featuring the GNOME desktop with a few minor tweaks. Linpus is definitely not a distribution you will use and try to tweak into any sort of server OS — this is desktop only. And although Linpus does have everything you need to use a desktop, you might find some of the applications a little out of date (such as Firefox 6.0).

  • Average boot time: 21 seconds.

3: Arch Linux

Arch Linux is another lightweight distribution that aims to have a lightning-fast boot time. This distribution focuses on simplicity, minimalism, and elegant code — so naturally it's going to boast quick boot times. Although out of the box, Arch isn't the fastest booting Linux in town, it can be tweaked enough to best the best. This distribution is based on the pacman package manager and should be easy enough for most users (maybe not the newest newbies) to manage.

  • Average boot time: 18 seconds.

4: Slax

Slax is unique in that you can fully customize the distribution you download. Because of this, you can create one seriously lean desktop distribution that will boot nearly as quickly as you like. I managed to create a distribution with Slax (focusing only on specific desktop needs for writing and graphic design) that not only could serve me well, but could do so quickly. To build your unique Slax download, visit the Slax Builder to begin. Believe it or not, it's not that difficult to create your very own Linux with Slax.

  • Average boot time: 16 seconds.

5: Ubuntu 11.10

Ubuntu 11.10 is the king of quick boots. It was the first fully loaded desktop distribution that could claim the 10-second boot time. And I have witnessed that boot time firsthand. The 10-second boot doesn't require seriously overpowered hardware, either. This magic number can be reached, without tweaks, on average hardware you can purchase off the rack. Even with the less-than-desired Ubuntu Unity, you can have your desktop up and running, from cold boot, in around 10 seconds.

  • Average boot time: 10 seconds.

On your mark...

Yes you could also make a case for any of the Google Chrome-like or Splashtop OSes that can have you up and running in three to five seconds, but that was not the intent here. I wanted to focus on distributions that could be considered full desktops. And although you may not get the same results I did on your boot times, there are always plenty of tweaks to be made to further speed up your Linux desktop boot.

Additional reading

How fast?

What has been your fastest boot time in Linux — or any operating system, for that matter? Share with your fellow TechRepublic readers.


Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website

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